It looks like you're using an Ad Blocker.

Please white-list or disable in your ad-blocking tool.

Thank you.


Some features of ATS will be disabled while you continue to use an ad-blocker.


Absolutism of the masses

page: 1

log in


posted on Oct, 14 2011 @ 09:37 AM
As one looks back upon the Medieval Ages of European society, at its political and legal order you are often met with the cries of vast concentrations of power in the hands of Kings. They are without restriction for it is an absolute order, the ‘Divine Right of Kings’, and they answer to nothing other than themselves. This would be true if it were not entirely false, as is the case with everything else. Kings were not subject to any law of man, this is the critical component. Yet, if they were not subject to any law of man than what was stopping them from consuming total power into their own hands?

Before one can properly analyze history he must put himself in the shoes of that age. If you are looking at these times from entirely unlettered position then it is easily understood how the Kings were brutal tyrants with unlimited authority because no one on earth held them accountable for their actions. However your way of thought in regards to power is different from the way that life worked in that time period.

A King may have held ‘absolute’ authority over his subjects but he too was a subject to a higher authority. The belief in an eternal authority which transcends the manifest world; one which all men from the poorest peasant to the wealthiest King were all subject to equally, this ordered their decisions, activities, and authority. To those who hold no belief in a transcendental authority, i.e. divine authority, or are even remotely skeptical of religious texts could never believe in such a thing because it is wholly outside their reasoning.

To give the simplest example it is to say that Kings were held to a Constitution, imagine the American Constitution, except this one was not merely a piece of paper that if you ignore the worse than can happen is impeachment. Rather the only form of impeachment a King could have by violating this ‘Constitution’ from God would be an eternity in the fiery depths of hell, eternally punished for his crimes on earth for a betrayal of divine law and his subjects. If you were a devoutly religious man, such a scenario would have to horrify you into submission to this law.

This is not designed to be interpreted as an outright defense of Monarchial Absolutism; rather it is intended to give you a historical background for the further elaboration in this post. When one learns that the state throughout history has often followed power to its ultimate ends, seeking to concentrate within itself all authority over everything then you learn the truth.

The problem is not power alone for throughout history we see repeatedly everywhere that power is necessary because the ordering of people’s lives is necessary by a higher authority. This higher authority only has this ability to order through power. Problems with power arise only when there is too much of it concentrated in too few hands. For the greatest development of liberty, power must be diffused to as many different outlets as possible, no one entity holding too much or all else will crumble.

So what helped to develop the expansion of power to limitless heights? Now is where the original explanation of ‘divine law’ in regards to ‘monarchial absolutism’ is necessary for historical comparison. Perhaps the greatest leap into an era of more concentrated and limitless power than even observed in the Dark Ages came about at the same time as liberty was the battle cry to which the masses rallied. To the liberal, and I mean liberal in the broadest sense as in anyone who subscribes to the Social Contract Theory, what I am about to say is the most ‘ignorant’, ‘reactionary’, and ‘theocratic’ heresy.

A great leap into the limitless authority of the state came about with the overthrow of divine lawgiving. When the law of a higher, transcendental order, was overthrown in favor of the laws of man this allowed for the development of endless power. Unlike the absolute monarchies which were beholden to laws which they had absolutely no ability to alter or abolish, this new order was centered on laws created by man to control men who had authority over the masses of men. In other words, men who controlled men created the laws by which they controlled men.

Those in positions of power were then limitless in what their authority was because they wrote the limits. When you can write your own limits then you can become limitless. Think about that for a second, if the limits on your power over the lives of men were left up to you, where would you stop? If you are a humble and virtuous person then it would be easy to stop or even further limit your own powers but how many men are alive who have such control over their passions? Should you be an ideologue or a person hungry for wealth what is going to prevent you from pursuing the highest degree of power?

For this reason man created Constitutions which were designed to limit the powers of the governors of men. The United States Constitution sought to divide up the powers of government so that no single government entity held arbitrary powers over another and all would be kept in check by another. This was the intent. An executive would not be limited in his power because the Constitution appropriated certain powers to him and also appropriated powers to the Legislative to keep in check the Executive’s limits. Same is applied to all other branches of government.

With the fall of divine authority came the rise of the Social Contract Theory of Locke, Hobbes, and Rousseau. They argued that sovereignty lies in the individuals within a nation. Then for political and civil order they appropriate some of these rights up to a governing authority which operates upon the sovereignty of the masses. Because the authority drew its power from the sovereignty of the individuals it governed there would be little suspicion of its power because why would the people fear power that was wielded by said people, no man would oppress himself would he?

Is there any wonder why the people of Enlightenment saw the medieval powers as excessive? It was for the fact that they did not draw their power from the sovereignty of the people and if they did not draw their sovereignty from the people then they must have been oppressive. As I said earlier, no man would oppress himself, but he fears that those he does not control would have no problems oppressing him.

But the man of Enlightenment failed to see that Kings were ordered by a divine authority beyond anything the King could control. However under popular sovereignty this divine authority disappeared, it was abolished in favor of the Social Contract. And since man did not believe he would oppress himself then in popular democracy there could be no oppression. This idea is what ultimately leads to the argument that democracy paves the way for tyranny.

posted on Oct, 14 2011 @ 09:38 AM
When we combined the Social Contract with secular law it created a system of laws which were derived from popular sovereignty. Man was skeptical if not fearful of any limits that are not self-willed and by allowing all limits to be self-willed they became self-imposed, bereft of any higher law. Upon this we built our social order, all laws were created by lawmakers who were changeable men which meant that all laws were ultimately changeable. Naturally all law arising from popular sovereignty is changeable like a pair of clothes but one could argue law arising from divine order is uncontrollable like a good parent’s unconditional love of their child. It is neither a perfect argument nor a perfect solution but at this stage it is the best we know.

Modern state built upon popular sovereignty is what gives rise to the horrors of the 20th century; totalitarianism. The reason for this is that the state has eroded away all the social powers that stand in its way of total consolidation of power. This occurs when the former competing entities of social authority are removed from importance, often cheered on by the people, but at their own expense as they often later learn. Why would people cheer on the destruction of alternative social authority other than the state? Because they want to feel liberated from those restraints; church, religion, local towns, individual states, etc… are all threatening to the social liberation of people and equally threatening to the concentration of power in the central governing authority.

Whether or not one wants to hear this and whether or not one agrees, I could care less. When we look upon our history we observe that when the other forms of social authority are eroded away either swiftly or slowly, the individual feels liberation, and the democratic man loves liberation. He wants to be liberated from the social restraints imposed by family, churches, local governments, and traditional morality. But at the same time the social restraints are lifted the opposing powers to the state are also lifted, this leaves one entity in sole control over the power within a nation: the government.

What is the end result of this? Man becomes completely subservient to the state in all affairs of his life. The state consumes him but he feels less threatened by this state than by the other social authorities which the state, whether he knows it or not, helped liberate him from. When the church no longer holds sole authority over marriages, the state steps in and says who can or cannot get married. When religion no longer holds authority over morality, the state steps in and says what you can or cannot do. Through social liberation you remove the ‘shackles’ of religion, traditional morality, and other social authority but you trade them out for the even more dangerous shackles of the state.

One can observe through history that absolutism is in conspiracy with equality. We can observe that Kings often sought to undermine aristocracies because they were the natural enemies to the concentrated power of Kings. They were often successful because they sided with the peasants, promising them favors and benefits which in the end were not always fulfilled. All the King needed the peasants for was to remove the counter-authority to their quest for control. This however brings us back to divine authority.

As I said before divine authority was not a manmade law but that does not mean it was not often enforced by man. Aristocrats were usually at odds with monarchs because the aristocrats sought to enforce divine law whenever they felt it was being violated. This was their way of countering the weight of monarchial rule while simultaneously refraining from laws influenced by the masses. One could argue they were the middle men to three different groups; the King, the masses, and the Divine. A kingdom was seldom healthy if it did not have a healthy aristocracy.

This is why the King needed the aristocracy corrupted, weakened, or removed. The peasants were his only way of doing this. But often the aristocrats were friendly with the peasants; many peasants viewed them as their protectors. Yet there were still many peasants who felt that the aristocrats were elitists. Once aristocracies were overthrown by the King and his blind peasants he would have limitless authority subject to his own will or fear of divine punishment in the afterlife and the peasant would be liberated from the social restraints of aristocratic authority, becoming slaves to the King.

posted on Oct, 14 2011 @ 09:38 AM
During the Enlightenment the new argument became equality, or ‘egalitarianism’, which was more of an opposition argument to aristocracy than even monarchy. Monarchs could be tolerated to a certain degree because they will go with popular opinion so long as they can keep their power. Aristocrats are wholly at ends with popular opinion and popular sovereignty because they are meant to be the divine check upon society whether it is the King or the Peasant. This is why aristocracies are staunchly opposed by egalitarians, who are almost always small-d democrats.

There are ways of countering concentrations of power, this was tried as earlier mentioned in Constitutions. Separations of power as mentioned by Madison in Federalist 51 is a good example but since the founding of the Constitution has there been a close obedience of this separation or has power been concentrated more and more beyond where it was naturally intended? I think we all know the answer to that question. So then what are our options?

Power can control itself even without other social authorities but only if it is humble enough with its obedience to natural law as the Founding Fathers of the United States demonstrated. But what would force power to submit itself to natural law? Therein lays the problem. Nothing we know of today can force the government to limit itself; what would make politicians limit what they do and how much power they give themselves? Is there something within people that can be tapped which would bring our politicians back to reverence for the restrictions placed upon them by the constitution?

Maybe the answer is much clearer than we think. What if the key to holding together the modern state, keeping politicians on a leash, and distributing power can be accomplished by having more people in the society holding more of a stake in it? The key to maintaining liberty then would be to have as many citizens as possible who are concerned about protecting their own authority in the country. This would require people having the same interests and a dedication to protecting those same interests.

Such a harmony of society which is absolutely necessary in order to preserve liberty and restrict concentrating power would only be possible if the material conditions go from highest to lowest where the differences are not too far apart. Meaning that there cannot be a large concentration of plutocrats at one end of the material chain of wealth while at the other end sits a large concentration of disinherited masses, both ends being polarized and entirely separated, or as Benjamin Disraeli said in his ‘Sybil, of the Two Nations’:

“Two nations between whom there is no intercourse and no sympathy; who are as ignorant of each other's habits, thoughts, and feelings, as if they were dwellers in different zones, or inhabitants of different planets: the rich and the poor.”

Whenever we look back upon history and observe the greatest rise of concentrated power it occurred during an era of concentrated material wealth. When there are large masses of the poor with no stake in society they often either encourage or sit idly by as the state consolidates vast authority. Karl Marx called them the ‘proletariat’. By us allowing for the two different classes be separated within the same country like that it is just an encouragement for growth of totalitarianism.

When Adolf Hitler rose to power he did so because that was what many, if not most, of the German people wanted. The target were the Jews because this was a time of great economic crisis where most did not have a stake in society but the Jews in Germany still held control over much wealth. The people disregarded what would otherwise be reasonable and installed Hitler, who gave himself unchecked power, because of the masses that supported him with what is called popular sovereignty.

Is it any wonder, after reading this thread that American Conservatives often in times of crisis or great unknown call upon the Constitution? The Constitution is the modern day version of divine order, it is because Conservatives feel that a great consolidation of power is at hand and the only force which can stop such actions is the authority of this document which restricts government in what it can do. Those calling upon the Constitution are much like the Conservatives of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries calling upon divine order to halt the growth of popular sovereignty because they feared that the power of man would be unchecked leading to excesses of government power.

posted on Oct, 14 2011 @ 01:20 PM
No one responded? Come on people!


posted on Oct, 14 2011 @ 01:34 PM
reply to post by Misoir

Dear Misoir,

Your post deserves to be a chapter in school civics books (if they still teach civics). It's an easy to follow explanation of history, political philosophy, and sociology.

Because I'm so deficient in history I'm unclear about the effect of the Reformation on Divine Right. Did that serve as the beginning of whittling away the check that God had on kings?

My second area of immediate interest is the increase of the stake that the average citizen has in government. By increasing the citizen's power, you decrease the government's (Lord Acton reversed). But education needs to be stressed. Today's citizens have difficulty reading an essay or evaluating an argument and are thus more susceptible to herd instincts. Some threads on ATS are good examples of that. Would increasing citizen power drive them to greater learning and understanding?

Anyway, you're tops with me. Thanks for the thread.

With respect,

posted on Oct, 14 2011 @ 01:46 PM
I've written five different replies to this thread.
In my mind.
The opening posts have walked a very precise path
right into the heart of the Roman Senate where Caesar is
brutally taken down with steely knives.

We often forget that just because our history books tell us who killed Caesar
it doesn't mean that everyone always knew.

What is addressed in the opening post is the difference between the public adoring the
senators waving the bloody clothes promising to avenge the crime by fixing government,
and the inconvenient historical truth that these are also the very same people
who ushered in the age of the Caesars.

But what timely thought can I offer?
That we are more in the age of assassination
than in the age of monarchist revivalism.

David Grouchy

posted on Oct, 14 2011 @ 01:57 PM

Originally posted by charles1952
reply to post by Misoir

Because I'm so deficient in history I'm unclear about the effect of the Reformation on Divine Right. Did that serve as the beginning of whittling away the check that God had on kings?

The reason for Divine Right was to remove the restrictions placed on Kings by the Papacy by declaring that only God could judge a King. Before this doctrine which occurred in the 16th century as a response to the religious wars, monarchs were subject to what was viewed as the highest authority in the Christian land: the Pope. So no it was not the beginning of whittling away, in fact it was the very beginning of the Godly check on Kings as before it was by the Papacy in Rome.

When Divine Right was accepted it created the first real belief in ‘sovereignty’ of a nation rather than just a division of Papal Authority. But it opened the door to Kings having vastly new powers unchecked on Earth. Before if a King was acting immorally or offensively in violation of natural law and divine law then the Pope could remove him from the throne, Divine Right broke the ties between the Monarch and Papacy thus no earthly controls were placed on the King as he was the highest authority in his realm rather than the Pope who was before Divine Right.

Would increasing citizen power drive them to greater learning and understanding?

It would really depend on what type of society we are talking about because it varies by culture but overall I believe that it would lead to an increase in people seeking higher knowledge. Take my country for instance, United States, if people had more investment in their society they would have not only a greater affordability of higher learning but also more mental encouragement because most people would no longer be disenfranchised. Learning would also be decentralized where citizens would take it upon themselves to learn and local colleges would be better equipped to help the local community.

All of this would lead to far more rapid growth in the economy, advancement in science, technology, and innovation while at the same time fostering a healthier atmosphere of brotherhood, community, and culture. There are so many positive outcomes of closing the gap between the classes, decentralizing power, fostering a healthy atmosphere of private property, and reawakening local communities.

I personally believe that the only way we can do this is with a ‘One Nation Conservatism’ of Benjamin Disraeli, which I encourage you, to read, or my personal economic beliefs of Distributism. Basically they are the beliefs of British/Canadian Tories before they got in bed with big business.

posted on Oct, 14 2011 @ 02:29 PM
Part of your concept hinges on the belief that kings truly feel a kinship to the religious
ideas of eternal damnation and divinity. But it seems to me entirely possible that the
religious tradition of the day was a prerequisite for rule. Don't you find it odd that during the age
of Christian rule, centuries of Monarchs did not produce one devote atheist, or animist, willing
to challenge the entire concept of religion? I know many religious people who stray back and
forth between faith and lack of faith.

This point is to say that, you seem to assume that all people, specifically outwardly religious
people fear gods wrath. Yet even today, we know that many religious men, who devote their
lives to pious organizations, also defy morality in many unsavory ways. Religion does not
guarantee that the monarch is acting on behalf of gods will or teachings. The most powerful
man in a realm can easily conceal anything they would like, they can manufacture any situation
with in the realms of natural law and they pass judgement with out scrutiny. Monarchs often times
declared that they are a form of divinity, which also allowed them to the ability to manipulate
religious thought and the execution of "law", a practice that was usually and entirely devoid
of reason or logic or god for that matter.

I think the Monarchy was the ultimate form of totalitarian existence because nobody can
ask god's opinion on any given matter. Remember a king did have one allegiance, but that
was to the the religious state, social demand, not necessarily to a higher being, or faith. The
king could serve themselves in everything and appear pious (and induce fear bought control)
by carrying out god's alleged will.

From an economic stance, Monarchy was the end result when there is no restriction placed
upon economic domination over an economy. Tribal life proceeded monarchy and monarchy
was the result, one group winning the economic vie for power over a large territory of a collect-
ion of smaller territories. Monarchies did not just materialize, they were won with conquest and
more importantly, by the acquisition of resources need to win the decades, centuries and eons
of conquest which proceeded the eventually establishment of the ultimate winner, the king, the
master producer and procurer of the realm.

On an entirely other level,"the state" has always existed in some form or another, because if
you look past the narrow definition of the state, you will see that the function of the state has
always been a factor in shaping the governance of people. People are social creatures and people
have always adopted the hierarchal order in one for or another. They replaced the laws of nature,
with the laws of the elders, they replaced the law of the elders with the dictate of the warlords,
they replace the laws of the warlords, with the laws of the god (which was ultimately at the sole
discretion of the king himself, no god involved in a quartering, burning or hanging), America
replaced the law of the king with he law of the people. However, I think many people think that
America is actually based upon the law of money... I think that is the in part the desire of people
to support a strong social hierarchy, which, in may opinion, leads straight back to the king if it
is left raw and completely unchecked. The king could not have subjugated millions of people if
the king was barred from complete and total economy domination, in gold, land, food and resources

The current state is more dynamic than anyone gives it credit, this is not to say that I enjoy the state
of the state. Our state is comprised of many opposing forces, which nerve stop fighting for
power, federal, state, local. This is what is over looked, America is free exactly because no
one group or interests owns all the power, that is exactly the magic of America, it is not
the slogans and icons, it is the fact that stagnation is prevented, because the internal forces
are always threatened with extinction. One key law, can be wiped a million ways, there are countless
specific forces looking to take the place of the current status quo. Everyday the mix of all the laws
and forces creates different outcomes, each day this changes bit by bit.

I think that biggest mistake in politics to grant too much intellectual room to the idea of the state
and them wholly ignore the role that money has in shaping the state. The state is controlled by
money, if you shrank the state in half, in would nearly make market entry into controlling the state
easier. Power has been condensed, less politicians means that there are less people you have to
co-opt. Conversely, More interests are competing for the attention of less people, which means
that the market entry into controlling a politician just got more expensive, because it takes more
to outcompete other interests, not less. More opinions, leads to a greater diversity of outcomes
and less stagnation. The real, supply and demand

edit on 14-10-2011 by mastahunta because: (no reason given)

posted on Oct, 14 2011 @ 02:46 PM
My post was not intended to say that I think more state and more politicians
are good things for America. It is to say that, disharmonious opinions are the
absolute enemy of totalitarian rule, unless the economic system can be brought
into one camp and be used to facilitate the illusion of a power struggle.

posted on Oct, 14 2011 @ 02:52 PM
reply to post by mastahunta

Forgot to add, and sorry for the meandering it all, I think the current incarnation of the corporation
is very similar to warlord clans which fought to establish one clear and total winner of it all.
Even the modern decision to give corporations eternal life, mimics the concept of what allowed
the monarchy unbreakable and unquestionable power. It is very hard to kill off a bloodline and it
is virtually impossible to kill a modern corporation, so both can consolidate and scheme
systematically and methodically, because both are able to out live a human. Therefore both
parties were/are able to entrench themselves into the landscape and society.

edit on 14-10-2011 by mastahunta because: (no reason given)

new topics

top topics


log in